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Ann Byrne

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BYRNE, ANN CREMIN 87, a former administrator at the University of Rhode Island, activist and potter, died peacefully in her sleep surrounded by family and friends, on the afternoon of Friday, February 6, at Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island. Ann C. Byrne was born in Chicago to Barry Byrne, an important Prairie School architect who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright, and Annette Cremin Byrne, a successful commercial artist. Ms. Byrne grew up in New York City, in a home frequented by the likes of sculptor Alexander Calder and inventor Buckminster Fuller. As part of the early-entrance program, Ms. Byrne enrolled at age sixteen in the College of the University of Chicago, from which she graduated at the age of 22." In 1950 she married Nicholas von Hoffman, a community organizer and, subsequently, a journalist, with whom she bore three children. In 1968 the marriage ended in divorce. In 1967, Ms. Byrne was awarded a Danforth Fellowship and returned to the University of Chicago to obtain an M.A. in English. She began her career in the pioneering field of degree programs for adult students at Roosevelt University in Chicago, first as Associate Director and later as Associate Dean of the College of Continuing Education. While in Chicago, she helped form an effective tenants' union, was a volunteer in the organizing drive of The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), and participated in the civil rights march on Selma, Alabama. She counted among her numerous Chicago friends Saul Alinsky, the community organizer for whom her husband worked; Studs Terkel, the well-known radio interviewer and author; Al Raby, an eminent Chicago civil rights leader; and Renault Robinson, founder of the Chicago African American Patrolmen's League, who received a bachelor's degree through her program at Roosevelt. In 1971, Ms. Byrne moved to Providence to work at the College of Continuing Education of the University of Rhode Island, where she held the posts of Associate Dean, Acting Dean, and Director of Advising and Admissions. In 1980, she earned a Doctorate of Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 1985, Ms. Byrne became a free-lance editor for scholarly works, which she continued after retiring from URI in 1991. During the forty-four years she lived in Providence, Ms. Byrne was highly engaged in community affairs. An early member of the Women's Caucus of the American Association of Higher Education, she collaborated in establishing several groups for women administrators in New England, and one for URI's Professional Staff Association, a union for middle management. From about 1978 to 1988, Ms. Byrne represented Rhode Island Working Women on the Board of Directors of the Fund for Community Progress, where she also served as Chair of the Board for three years. Later she served on the Board of the Providence Family Learning Center. At age seventy, she took up ceramics and two years later, in 2000, helped found the Domus Luti Pottery Cooperative. Since then she has been a dedicated potter and served as the group's archivist. Ms. Byrne is survived by her brother, Barry Byrne, of Montreal, Canada; her three sons, Alexander von Hoffman of Cambridge, Mass., Aristodemos von Hoffman, of Huntsville, Alabama, Constantine von Hoffman, of Brighton, Mass.; and two grandchildren, Esmé von Hoffman, of New York City, and Gregory Teig von Hoffman, of Brighton, Mass. A memorial event to honor the life of Ann C. Byrne is being planned in Providence for April 25, 2015.
Published in The Providence Journal on Feb. 11, 2015
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